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Whose Fault Is It?

Watch. Then we shall discuss.

It’s the standard question that crops up in every presidential election cycle: Are you better off than you were four years ago? Personal disclosure: I’m not. I’m making less than half the money I made in 2008.

But is that really the president’s fault?

Back in the 1990s, I was often disgusted with Clintonites who touted all of Bubba’s major accomplishments – a balanced budget, robust growth, and welfare reform. Why did Bill get to take the credit? Clinton opposed all those things until Newt Gingrich shoved them down his throat. (Yes, I know – that’s a disturbing image for a number of reasons.) People who praised President Clinton couldn’t cite a specific thing he had actually done that could account for our national prosperity, other than sign into law all the things he had decried in the Contract for America. For six years, Clinton proposed nothing on his own, beyond trifles like school uniforms, V chips, and midnight basketball. He spent his entire presidency playing small ball after he got his electoral head handed to him in the 1994 midterms. (Yes, another disturbing image. Metaphors involving Bill Clinton are always double entendres, whether you want them to be or not.)

So here we are in 2012, and instead of a president trying to take credit for Republican accomplishments, we have one that’s trying to get his predecessor to take all the blame. President Obama tells us that “frankly, the [Bush] mess has been bigger than I think a lot of people anticipated,” so we’re supposed to be patient with the fact that it’s taking more than three years to clean it up.

That begs the question: what, exactly, constitutes the Bush mess?

Well, it turns out that specifics are pretty hard to come by. Usually, the answer to that question leads into a discussion about unfunded and unnecessary wars or some such, but arguing that heavy military spending is the reason we’ve had sky-high unemployment and underemployment for over three years doesn’t make much sense. Then there’s the housing bubble, which was a worldwide phenomenon and therefore very hard to attribute to specific action by W., although not for lack of trying.

But okay. You want to blame Bush? Fine. I think you’re confusing partisan emotions with facts, but I can’t stop you. So go right ahead. But if that’s the way you’re going to write the story, then you also have to tell me what Obama has been doing to make it all better.

Yeah, good luck with that.

Let’s review just three of President Obama’s major accomplishments.

1. A gargantuan health care bill that nobody has read, nobody understands, and which places onerous new financial burdens on the private sector, in addition to now being projected to cost twice as much as originally estimated.

2. A trillion-dollar stimulus that failed in its intended purpose to keep unemployment below 8% and collapsed under the weight of bureaucracy, patronage, and corruption.

3. Dodd-Frank, a bill that massively increases financial regulations and makes it almost impossible for companies to prepare initial public offerings of corporate stock.

None of these things have cleaned up the mess. At best, they’ve just smeared around what was already there. In the case of Dodd-Frank and Obamacare, they’ve dumped buckets of new, fresh mud all over the nation’s floor. (Clinton isn’t involved in this metaphor, so I think we’re safe.) Can you cite me a single instance where President Obama has made it easier to do business in this country instead of harder? Where he has favored the growth of the private sector over the public sector? You can try, but it’s not an easy case to make. If it were, Obama would be making it. And he isn’t. Instead, he’s still trying to parcel out blame.

I am not one to subscribe to the theory that this or any president determines my course in life. I cannot, then, attribute my current economic circumstances to anything President Obama has done. But there are plenty of people who will. And that is the fact that gives me more confidence than I’ve ever had that Mitt Romney might actually win this thing come November.

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